backpacking boots reviews

Oboz Sawtooth II Low Waterproof hiking shoes.

Gear Review: Oboz Sawtooth II Low Waterproof Hiking Shoes

Hiking Shoes
Oboz Sawtooth II Low Waterproof
$140, 2 lbs. 4 oz. (men’s size 9)
Sizes: men’s 8-14, women’s 6-11
backcountry.com

All through the second day of a five-day trek in northern Spain’s Picos de Europa Mountains, we hiked through steady rain and, higher up, wet snow that accumulated several inches deep on the ground. It felt more like Scotland’s Northern Highlands than mountains in the north of Spain. Throughout that day and the entire trip, these shoes mostly delivered the kind of support and performance I expect from much pricier boots—but did have a couple of minor shortcomings. 

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Arc’teryx Aerios FL Mid GTX hiking shoes.

Gear Review: Arc’teryx Aerios FL Mid GTX Hiking Shoes

Hiking and Backpacking Shoes Arc’teryx Aerios FL Mid GTX $185, 1 lb. 11 oz. (US men’s 9) Sizes: men’s 7-13, women’s 5-10 backcountry.com The trend toward lighter footwear for hiking and backpacking has generally improved the offerings available—but has also produced a lot of shoes that, frankly, lack the support and cushion for rugged dayhiking or lightweight backpacking. Curious to …

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The North Face Safien GTX hiking shoes.

Gear Review: The North Face Safien GTX Hiking Shoes

Hiking Shoes
The North Face Safien GTX
$140, 1 lb. 10 oz. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-14, women’s 5-11
Moosejaw.com

Few outings test the comfort and support of hiking shoes like a rim-to-rim dayhike across the Grand Canyon. So to take the full measure of the purported extra cushioning in The North Face Safien GTX shoes, I hiked them across the Big Ditch and back again over two days—a total of 42 miles and about 22,000 vertical feet of serious pounding on consecutive days—and finished feeling no small measure of relief that these shoes really are as cushy as TNF claims. They also have other strengths as well as some minor weaknesses.

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Gear Review: Zamberlan 491 Trackmaster GTX RR Backpacking Boots

Zamberlan 491 Trackmaster GTX RR boots.
Zamberlan 491 Trackmaster GTX RR backpacking boots.

Backpacking Boots
Zamberlan 491 Trackmaster GTX RR
$220, 2 lbs. 8 oz. (men’s US 9/Euro 43)
Sizes: men’s 8-13, women’s 6-11
rei.com

For some backpacking trips, lightweight, mid-cut boots or low-cut shoes don’t cut it. With plans for a six-day hike of over 90 miles on the Continental Divide Trail through Glacier National Park in September—where snow had fallen just a week before—I saw the trip as an opportunity to put Zamberlan’s premier leather backpacking boot, the 491 Trackmaster GTX RR, to a real test. On that hike, I found they measure up as a top boot in this category, although I had one minor complaint. Here’s why you should consider them.

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The North Face Ultra Fastpack III Mid GTX hiking boots.

Gear Review: The North Face Ultra Fastpack III Mid GTX Boots

Hiking and Backpacking Boots
The North Face Ultra Fastpack III Mid GTX
$170, 1 lb. 15 oz. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-14, women’s 5-11
Moosejaw.com

Supportive, durable, waterproof-breathable, mid-cut boots that weigh under two pounds are a rare breed, so I was intrigued by the specs on The North Face Ultra Fastpack III Mid GTX boots. But I’ve also worn enough lightweight boots to know that many do not measure up when it comes to delivering solid support and stability for dayhiking and backpacking mountain trails. So I took these boots on a four-day, roughly 30-mile family backpacking trip in August in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains—and they aced every test.

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